Recently, Perkins+Will’s Chicago office participated in the Bike Commuter Challenge (BCC), an initiative of the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA). The office’s desire to increase commuter ridership, in addition to promoting firmwide commitments to sustainability and wellness, prompted enthusiastic and impressive efforts. In clocking in over 1,500 miles over the course of one week, we offset more than 1,500 pounds of CO2. If steady ridership continues beyond the BCC, we have the potential to save 10 tons of carbon from being pumped into the atmosphere per year. Robert Krotser, Matthew Kuhl, and Adam Lund organized our Bike to Work Week efforts and reflected on the program’s impact on employee and environmental wellness.
Our society has seen shifts in the way people commute, but the ubiquity of the automobile in everyday life continues to positively and negatively shape the country and the world. While the single-occupancy vehicle has created conveniences beyond belief and become a rite of passage, it also has created lasting negative impacts on individual and environmental health and wellness.
Widespread automobile use is unlikely to disappear completely, but sustainable forms of transportation are increasingly necessary in the 21st century to combat negative impacts such as pollution, congestion, highway accidents, and sedentary lifestyles. The simple bicycle, a two-wheeled, human-powered machine, is essentially carbon neutral after manufacturing. Individual health benefits of commuting by bike are nicely complemented by environmental benefits, not to mention the reduction in impact on public infrastructure.
By promoting a sustainable form of transportation during the Bike Commuter Challenge, we hoped to promote dialogue and challenge preconceived notions of commuting. It was an opportunity to bring awareness and encourage trying something new, with a larger goal in mind. The challenge also brought together coworkers through a non-work event. During BCC promotion events, new conversations about where people live, what their commute might be like, and other personal interests were easily formed. This in turn fostered new relationships and friendships that can be challenging to develop in a larger office environment.
The Chicago + Cycling Group, with the support of Perkins+Will, promoted the BCC thorough office-sanctioned happy hours to kick off and wrap up the week, as well as breakfast and daily raffle prizes for participants. Additionally, there were daily bike maintenance classes and support by the C+C group to help fellow employees plan routes and prepare for their commutes.
Ultimately, our Chicago office celebrated a 21% participation rate, which was a much higher level than almost all other companies our size. Our more than 1,500 miles ridden by the nearly 60 participants ranks in the top 10 of all organizations in the City of Chicago who participated in the Bike Commuter Challenge!
However, our proudest accomplishment this year is that several participants confided in us that they’re now converts and will continue their bike commuting efforts indefinitely. We hope our Perkins+Will bike commuters of the present and future will add on to the 10 tons of carbon the Chicago + Cycling Group saves on a yearly basis.